Vikings at Lambeau
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By CHRIS HAVEL
Cardinals sound defeat of Packers points out Green Bay’s woes as Vikings come to Lambeau Field
It doesn’t get much uglier than this.
The Arizona Cardinals showed everyone why they are a serious Super Bowl 50 contender by overwhelming the Green Bay Packers 38-8 in a Sunday afternoon win in Glendale, Arizona.
The Packers (10-5) stayed close until the game-changing turning point late in the first half. Trailing 10-0 with Arizona on the march, the Packers’ Mike Daniels intercepted Carson Palmer to give Green Bay excellent field position.
However, Aaron Rodgers was intercepted on third-and-goal at the Cardinals’ 10-yard line by Justin Bethel. Rodgers’ seventh interception of the season proved to be a game changer.
The Cardinals (13-2) responded by driving for a late first-half touchdown to take a commanding 17-0 lead into the locker room. Take away the pick and it might have been 10-7 at half.
Fumbles then became the Pack’s downfall in the second half, giving the Cardinals 21 easy points.
Arizona abused Green Bay’s backup offensive tackles with a variety of blitzes in the second half. With David Bahktieri and Bryan Bulaga out with ankle injuries, the Cardinals attacked backups Don Barclay and Josh Walker.
It led to nine sacks, including eight of Rodgers, who eventually was pulled in favor of Scott Tolzien after the outcome was decided.
“They were very aggressive to the line of scrimmage,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said of Arizona. “They played very well and took advantage of it.”
McCarthy has precious little time to bemoan the loss.
The Minnesota Vikings (10-5) destroyed the New York Giants 49-17 on Sunday night to set up an NFC North Division-title deciding matchup at Green Bay, with kickoff flexed to the 7:30 nationally televised night game.
The winner will capture the NFC North title and host a wild-card game. The loser will be on the road trying to get it together.
Right now, the Packers appear to be in dire straits. Their offensive line is a mess. Injuries have taken a toll on the tackles, and without Bahktieri or Bulaga, it seems a long-shot the Packers can give Rodgers the time he needs to jump-start the passing game.
In fact, the Packers’ passing attack has been disappointing for weeks. The loss of Jordy Nelson has been compounded by Davante Adams’ unexpected poor play, coupled with Ty Montgomery’s injury-related failure to contribute anything.
Furthermore, second-year receivers Jarred Abrederis and Jeff Janis are not ready to contribute consistently, and veteran James Jones has been hit or miss.
Randall Cobb remains a viable weapon, except defenses know that and can account for it, considering the other receivers are not respected as serious threats. Cobb’s explosive plays have been effectively taken away, leaving 3 yards and a cloud of disgust.
The Packers’ mission is clear: Hope to keep the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson in check while the Green Bay offense tries to get it together. The problem is there’s nothing to suggest the Packers’ offense can pull itself out of its tailspin with all of the injuries. A great team has been relegated to a mediocre one, mainly because of that.
The run game isn’t reliable. The passing attack lacks teeth. And the quarterback appears to be uncharacteristically frustrated and uncertain. But who can blame him as it is hard to throw when he’s on his back, and he can’t catch his own passes. Rodgers’ “off” season is the result of having to do too much.
He completed just 15 of 28 passes for 151 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was on the run most of the game, and when he wasn’t on the run he was on his back.
Defenses know they don’t have to respect the deep passing game, and they know the running game is sporadic at best. For all their skills, Eddie Lacy and James Starks don’t have the home-run ability of speedier backs.
That’s a nice way of saying they are slow to the line of scrimmage. Worse, Starks can’t seem to hold on to the football.
But none of this is to say the Packers can’t beat Minnesota.
In fact, it would be very disappointing if the Vikings came into Lambeau Field and knocked off the Packers.
Here we will see what this team and this coaching staff are made of.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.